Kenya indian teacher who fell in love with baragoi – allafrica.com chicken breast easy crock pot recipes

Out of maralal town, the samburu county headquarters, the road stretches up the samburu hills before dropping down across the lopet plateau onto the elbarta plains.

After a seemingly endless stretch of wild land we arrive at our destination, just as the setting sun paints a heavenly picture in the horizon.

I am in baragoi, about 500 kilometres north-west of nairobi, and 100 kilometres out of maralal, to meet mr paramu pillai sasidharan, a native of india who has been living here for 30 years, sandwiched between the feuding samburu and turkana.

"Welcome to baragoi and feel at home in this small compound of ours," says pillai, as he hugs me like a long lost brother, brings a chair near his and offers me a locally brewed drink which I politely decline. I prefer a soda instead.

Unfazed, he nudges, telling me how the drink is good for digestion.


As we settle into niceties, a tall beautiful dark skinned woman approaches me and I stand up to greet her.Samburu turkana

"Meet my wife asimit eungong, a lady I love so much," he tells me, informing me that they met when she was selling milk and he was one of her regular customers more than 20 years ago.

The fast-talking man soon lets me know more. "She never went to school but she is very intelligent and supportive to the family and the community around," pillai boasts, posing proudly by her side.

I had stumbled on the story of pillai and his adventures in a wild place more than 5,000 kilometres away from his birthplace at kerala in southern india, through an old pal, duncan ndirangu kariuki, who had once taught with him at baragoi high school.

The story of an indian marrying a turkana and living away from the city all these years intrigued me. As I waited to meet sheila who would travel with me to baragoi, I could not help wondering how a product of an indian and a turkana will look like.

I was soon to know. I marked sheila out easily outside the nation centre in nairobi.Baragoi high soon we were on our way to baragoi, the place I contemplated with trepidation because of all the news about hardship and death. Still a call to adventure took the better of me and we started our trip in earnest.

Our bus, like all the others plying this route and much of northern kenya, was escorted by heavily armed policemen. We spent the night at maralal and proceeded on our second leg of the journey at dawn the next day.

The most notable activity along the maralal-baragoi road is the ongoing construction of the 400-kilovolt power line from the lake turkana wind power project, running from loiyangalani in the north to suswa outside nairobi.

Baragoi township is divided in two by a straight road with one side occupied by the turkana and the other the samburu. Whichever part you are visiting, the boda boda has to come from that side. Business people from other tribes can have property on either side, but not the two main combatants.Baragoi high school

Sheila’s family is on the turkana side, owing to her mother’s ancestry, and we have to wait for a while for the boda bodas operating that side pick us.

Pillai’s compound is small but neat. There are some kienyeji chicken, a native dog, an old land rover that is no longer in use, and a motorbike that badly needs repair. He moved there after his previous home was attacked by cattle rustlers who used the nearby route to escape. The family lost everything.

According to daudi kona who is the secretary general of turkana arise association in samburu, the samburu and turkana share a lot. They have intermarried and done business together although the turkana are more aggressive, he tells me.

Still, the marriage of the two communities is that of love, hate and love again. "Actually, the samburu believe if the turkana leave baragoi, the samburu will starve because they will lack essential commodities including foodstuff.Samburu turkana yet on the other hand they want the turkanas to go back to turkana county – a paradox!" says kona, highlighting the complexity of the relationship between these pastoral communities.

Kona believes the division between the two communities is purely political. The samburu elite feel threatened by the turkana professionals taking up the leadership roles.

"This has reached a level of trying to kick out members of the turkana from baragoi either through politically motivated fights, or through denial of services to frustrate the turkana into leaving."

Kona stresses that the division is mostly driven by the elite. "The deeper you go, the less you feel the division. There is the argument that the turkana do not belong in samburu," says kona.

Even as I listened to kona, questions still lingered on my mind as to how exactly pillai left india for this place and why he doesn’t seem in a hurry at all to leave.Baragoi high school

"I was born in kerala state southern indian on november 14, 1950 as the first born in a family of five; three boys and two girls," says pillai.

He says he was teaching at gopi’s parallel college when he met mohan, a friend who had earlier visited kenya. The two agreed to visit kenya as tourists and they came in march 1982.

Mohan and pillai stayed together for only two days and the former left for nigeria. Pillai was then introduced to another indian, sasi kumar, who was the head teacher at chepsir secondary school in kericho.

Since he was qualified, kumar organised for pillai to be hired as a teacher by the school’s board of governors in may 1982. "The school had only 29 students from form one to form four. Kumar and I worked very hard to improve the school and it started showing good results", say pillai.

Four years later, the school board decided to bring one of their own to head the school claiming kumar was misusing the funds — a charge that pillai denies.Baragoi high school

The new head teacher was a diploma holder unlike kumar who had a master’s degree and pillai left in a huff to join st joseph’s secondary school at kipsaina in keiyo south in 1986.

"During my free time at st joseph’s, I visited kaptagat hotel, 15km away to enjoy a drink and relax. While here, I made friends with three germans who were consulting for chebara dam which was under construction. I bought them two beers each as we discussed the development of the area", says pillai.

The germans learned from pillai that the school he taught had no playground and had no money to build one. They offered to do it for free, much to the community’s delight.

St joseph’s school is at a high altitude area and soon the cold weather affected pillai. He wrote to the teachers service commission which had employed him as a secondary school teacher in january 1987.

Pillai, who holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in sociology, has helped transform many people’s lives since he came to kenya in march 1982 through other initiatives.Baragoi high the numerous letters of recommendation and commendation from india and kenya, which lifestyle saw, speak volumes.

Across the valley is a well-fenced compound with a house and various types of vegetables and fruits. Pillai tells me the owner, samuel ndung’u, produces many high quality fruits and vegetables. Ndung’u has a borehole within the compound from where he gets water for irrigation and household use, indicating that with water, baragoi can indeed be transformed into a paradise.

We next visit a dam half filled with water. This is one of the many projects pillai has initiated in the area for the community over the years.

"When I came to baragoi, I decided to come up with ideas to improve the standards of living among the turkana and the samburu as one way of forging lasting peace. They are the ones who go through many challenges. I initiated food for work project and was supported by german agro action, one of germany’s biggest private organisations for development and humanitarian aid."

Samburu turkana

"We were able to employ 1,500 people per day where the community dug dams, planted trees and fenced school compounds. Every saturday we would give each participant 15kg of maize, 1.5kg of beans and half a kilo of cooking fat. This programme ran between 1994 and 1996 before funds dried up".

He has also helped buy a variety of vegetables and fruits suited to the local area which has boosted the food security efforts as many people in baragoi now grow their own crops.

Pillai also negotiated for the construction of three major water tanks sponsored by saidia project, a self-help group. These water tanks are within baragoi high school, but are used by the larger community. They need repair.

Among the old boys of the school are dr haron sirima currently deputy central bank of kenya deputy governor and lawrence lenaiyapa, former state house comptroller and now ambassador to thailand .

Away from baragoi high school, pillai takes me to the family’s abandoned house where they narrowly escaped death in 2002 when cattle raiders from both samburu and turkana sides made escape routes through their compound.Baragoi high everything was stolen.

The pillais had an emotional moment in august 2011 when kumar, pillai’s son from his first wife, traced him to the rugged terrains of baragoi in what turned out to be a reunion worthy of a bollywood movie.

As he left india for kenya in 1982, pillai’s wife was expectant with kumar. He came to kenya to look for his father and against many odds, father and son met for the first time in their lives, 29 years years after the younger man’s birth.

The son met a family he had not seen before. "We were all very happy," sheila chipped in as she showed me pictures of her half-bother and other family members.

So why doesn’t pillai want to go back to india? "I have given kenya all my most productive years and I want to die here as an old man. It’s not easy to go and start all over again. All I want is to be granted kenyan citizenship," he says as I take a boda boda back to baragoi where I would start my two-day trip to nairobi.Baragoi high

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